New legislation brought into force today has given courts new powers to make Alcohol Abstinence and Monitoring (‘AAM’) Orders when sentencing. The new legislation brings into effect section 212A of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (inserted by Section 76 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012) and aims to provide alternatives to custodial sentences for persons convicted of alcohol related offences.
An AAM Order prohibits persons from drinking and requires them to wear a ‘sobriety tag’ which will monitor their sweat for alcohol content. The tag monitors sweat content every half hour and can reportedly distinguish between alcohol consumed and topical substances with an alcohol content, such as hand sanitiser.
An AAM Order can be made for up to 120 days where the following conditions are met:
The first condition is that:
- the consumption of alcohol by the offender is an element of the offence for which the order is to be imposed or an associated offence, or
- the court is satisfied that the consumption of alcohol by the offender was a factor that contributed to the commission of that offence or an associated offence.
- The second condition is that the court is satisfied that the offender is not dependent on alcohol.
- The third condition is that the court does not include an alcohol treatment requirement in the order.
- The fourth condition is that the court has been notified by the Secretary of State that arrangements for monitoring of the kind to be specified are available in the local justice area to be specified.
If a person breaches their AAM order, they can be returned to court for breach of the court order and sentenced in relation to that breach, in certain circumstances, the AAM order can be revoked and the person can be re-sentenced for the original offence. This could result in a fine, a more restrictive community order and in some cases, a custodial sentence. It is clear that AAM orders not only restrict a persons’ individual freedoms (which is common with many sentencing options), but AAMs criminalise otherwise lawful, social activity. These are a preventative step rather than actually sanctioning criminal behaviour.
The Ministry of Justice intends for these orders to be rolled out nationally by Winter 2020, once an already stretched probation staff have been trained, and monitoring contracts agreed. It will be interesting to observe how the probation service are able to allocate resources to this and there is concern that over reliance will be placed on technology which is in its infancy.
AAM orders are currently available in London, Humberside, Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire, following pilot projects which were hailed a success by the Ministry of Justice. They will have a relatively easy introduction due to the restrictions placed on us all by Covid 19, but once rolled out nationally, it is anticipated that courts will enjoy this new tool in their sentencing armour.
If you are concerned that you might be sentenced to an AAM order, or if you are looking to challenge an AAM order that you have already received, please get in touch with our crime team at Bindmans LLP on 020 7833 4433.